A rematch of last year's ULEB Cup Final gets Group G of the Top 16 rolling in Thessaloniki, Greece on Thursday as Aris TT Bank welcomes Dynamo Moscow. It is the first-ever Top 16 game for either team, but the fans in Thessaloniki will certainly want revenge for Dynamo winning last season's ULEB Cup title game. Dynamo is on a five-game winning streak in the Euroleague and finished 10-4 in the regular season. Meanwhile, Aris had to battle hard to reach the Top 16 but managed to survive with a 6-8 record. Aris was one of the best rebounding teams in the regular season (34.6 rpg.) but ranked last in points scored (69.4 ppg.), two-point accuracy (45.2%) and assists (10 apg.). Even with that, Aris features one of the best frontcourt duos in the competition,featuring power forward Jeremiah Massey (13.4 ppg., 8.6 rpg., 2.1 apg.) and mobile center Mike Wilkinson (12.7 ppg., 6.6 rpg., 2.2 spg.). They ranked second and 11th, respectively, in index rating at the end of the regular season. Wilkinson will have a tough test against Lazaros Papadopoulos (15.6 ppg., 6.8 rpg.), the Euroleague MVP in January, who is having a career season and returns home to Greece with his frontcourt alter ego Antonis Fotsis (14.2 ppg., 46.8% 3FG, 6.4 rpg.). Fotsis will try to attack Massey in one-on-one situations while Papadopoulos and Obinna Ekezie (7.1 ppg., 67.9% 2FG) will have to go against Wilkinson and Giannis Giannoulis (2.4 rpg.) in the low post. Dynamo travels to Athens without Travis Hansen (14.4 ppg.), who got injured last week and will miss the remainder of the season. Eddie Gill (7.5 ppg., 47.1% 3FG), Sergey Monya (4 ppg.), Sergei Bykov (2.3 ppg.) and Bojan Popovic (10.6 ppg., 1.6 spg.), who shined in the ULEB Cup final last season, will have to step up to help Dynamo not to think about Hansen's absence. Gill and Popovic will test their point guard skills against Terrell Castle (10.3 ppg.), who is expected to play despite spraining an ankle earlier this week. George Kalaitzis and Spyros Panteliadis will be ready to come off the bench if Castle is not feeling 100 percent. Monya may be a mismatch for Aris due to his athleticism, as Dynamo coach Dusan Ivkovic may use twin playmakers, Popovic and Gill, to go against slasher Savvas Iliadis (7.3 ppg.) or scoring machine Alex Scales (14 ppg.). Above all, this is a special game for thousands of Aris fans who saw their team lose against Dynamo in the ULEB Cup final last April. Expect nothing but a balanced, intense game in which even the slighest detail will have importance to the final outcome.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007